Seafarers abandoned in midst of pandemic

According to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), three Greek seafarers and 22 of their shipmates on two bulk carriers, Liberian-flagged MV Ptolemeos and MV Arrybas, at anchor in the Port of Djibouti are among a rising tide of crew abandoned around the world at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Mohamed Arrachedi, ITF Arab World and Iran Network Coordinator, said the ships had been detained over debts owing.  Djibouti authorities are taking Athens-based Probulk Shipping and Trading, the ships’ owners, to court over US$10 million in debts to banks and suppliers.  Both vessels have been forced to wait at anchor offshore. 

“We have been on board eight months,” MV Arrybas Chief Engineer Dimitrios Siakas said via WhatsApp on April 18.  “We be at anchorage without salary eight months, without going outside the harbour, without money.”

He also said there were still 11 crew on board on the ship, mostly from the Philippines. The majority of crew on the sister ship are from Sri Lanka.

“We always respect court process and national laws worldwide,” Arrachedi stressed.  “But these seafarers have to go home.  We want Djibouti authorities to collaborate with us. Djibouti is a signatory to the Maritime Labor Convention.  Abandonment provisions have been included in the Maritime Labor Convention since January 2017.

“The seafarers must also be given priority. It is inconceivable they have to wait so many months. It is time to find a solution. The Djibouti maritime authorities must honor their commitment to the MLC and end the abandonment of the seafarers stranded on the Ptolemeos and Arrybas.”

The ITF has responded to calls of assistance on behalf of the Greek crew on humanitarian grounds.  The Greek Government had informed the Djibouti port authority a relief crew were ready to join the ships.  However, there is no reply from the authority.

Arrachedi said cases of crew abandonment are growing as nations locked down their borders during the global pandemic.

“Many don’t pay their crew wages,” he said. “They are acting with impunity. It is a cancer that the maritime industry must work together to eradicate.”

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